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Chinese tea -- 中国茶

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I'm posting this to ask if there would be much interest in a few short, informal articles about Chinese tea that could serve as starting points for related discussion.

 

I'm not an expert but did recently finish a short course of formal study as a 茶艺师, middle-level 中级。More to the point, I love Chinese tea and routinely drink many different kinds. I brew tea for my friends. When I travel to other parts of China, I always check out local tea culture and sample regional brews. I have several friends who are professionals in the tea business. 

 

Kunming is a significant tea hub, with two large wholesale markets and a zillion retail shops. Yunnan is also where Pu'er tea originates 普洱茶。It's very popular here in its several forms. You get offered a cup everywhere you go.

 

Tea is also part of daily China life. It's a way of connecting with Chinese people and their culture. It can be useful as a social bridge.

 

So, if you think this might be fun, please reply and we can give it a try. (I don't know how to conduct an actual poll.) Will flag this post for a moderator to solicit additional input and suggestions. 

 

Thanks!

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ChTTay

:lol:

 

Have you listened to the 10 part series on TV on the China History Podcast? What do you make of it?

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abcdefg
Have you listened to the 10 part series on TV on the China History Podcast?

 

ChTTay -- I haven't . Does it deal with tea?

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Shelley

Tea, wonderful stuff, why not, it would be great if you wanted to share your experiences.

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Shelley

Just had a thought, we could do tea tasting, you suggest a tea and if we can all get it where we are, we can try it and then discuss it :shock: maybe.

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realmayo

Would be interesting to read. I have a number of pu'er bings, some with good levels of mold, but I worry that drying out in my centrally-heated house isn't doing them many favours. Anyway now it's green tea time, or at least this year's green tea should be available mail-order. I can't help worrying that the Chinese stuff is stuffed full of pesticides and other poisons but there are a couple of European vendors who assure that it's organic and passes the chemical tests they carry out to comply with EU regulations.

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abcdefg
Just had a thought, we could do tea tasting, you suggest a tea and if we can all get it where we are, we can try it and then discuss it

 

Good idea, Shelley. I like that.

 

Anyway now it's green tea time, or at least this year's green tea should be available mail-order.

 

Right, Realmayo. We could start with green tea.

 

For most varieties of green, the best of the Spring harvest is picked in the run up to Qing Ming Jie 清明节。This year that was April 5th. So it's now on the shelves, being sold as 明前茶。

 

I always ask about pesticides and only buy tea which has purportedly not been sprayed. But I realize the vendors could by lying just to get my sale. When I climbed around in the tea groves of Xishuangbanna this March, the growers called my attention to the presence of leaf worms here and there. They pointed to them as evidence that the bushes and trees were organic.

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Mr John

I'd be interested.

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ZhangKaiRong

Good idea :)

I started to drink tea in my first exam session at university, as my head and stomach cannot tolerate coffee, I needed an alternative boost for studying. Fortunately, my home country had two good tea rooms/ tea shops specialized in Chinese and Japanese tea, so I didn't have to drink low-grade teas like gunpowder and dubious "jasmine greens" a lot of bio-shops sell as "Chinese green tea".

When I moved to China, I was quite disappointed that my idea of "tea-culture" was non-existent in the North - well, there was 奶茶, but that's not the real thing as we all know. One more reason for me to like the Southern part of China better than the Northern one.

 

Taste in tea is an interesting thing, and can be compared to taste in wine. My taste in tea changed a lot in the last seven years, for example I prefer Japanese gyokuro or sencha when it comes to green tea, simply because Chinese greens cannot be brewed to be thick, or I like Taiwanese oolongs better than those from the mainland. I also started to drink matcha regularly, a different alternative for green tea. However, I still very fond of good quality Chinese tea, especially greens and shu puerhs (unfortunately, sheng puerhs upset my stomach and make me feel dizzy :().

 

My favorite Chinese tea shop is located just next to my apartment (maybe this is why I became a regular there  :roll:). The funny thing is that this is the best Chinese tea shop in my country, even though the owner is a non-Chinese woman, she has a much better taste in tea than Chinese owners of other tea houses. She is also very picky about quality, this is why she travels to China every year (after Qingming in spring and after Zhongqiu in Autumn) to meet the vendors personally. That teahouse really has some awesome good quality tea, but yeah, the problem is that good tea is expensive, not just here but China as well. Actually they just got back from Hangzhou/Shanghai and brought three kinds of Longjing, the "A" quality one is very good, somewhat mild but also smoky after the second brew. They had some trips to the teafields, and vendors always assured they don't overuse pesticides. Yes, they can lie about it, but tea high in pesticides have a different look/taste (which is very obvious if you brew green tea), therefore lying vendors lose business quickly.

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ChTTay

Had a brain/typing malfunction. By "TV" I of course meant "tea".

Lazslo does a ten part series on the history of Tea. Would probably be worth a listen for you. I dipped in and out but couldn't get into it. Too many names.

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abcdefg

#11 -- ChTTay -- That makes more sense. I admire his history podcasts. Didn't realize he had a series on tea. Thanks. I'll have a listen.

 

Had a brain/typing malfunction.

 

BTW, I am no stranger to these.

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Shelley

abcdefg maybe you could choose 3 or 4 teas for us to try and i can get them in one shopping trip as it is a bit of trek to my "local" Chinese super market.

 

The more I think about it the more I like this idea of trying new teas.

 

You can guide us in the best way to brew and serve teas and this will help demystify the whole tea thing.

 

I am a fan of smoky teas but I also like good red tea, not tried too many green teas partly because I am not sure which ones to try and how to brew/serve them.

 

I have all the necessary Chinese teapots, cups etc. so it would be fun to do it properly.

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ChTTay

Can anyone recommend a lighter tea for me to try? I usually just drink Jasmine Tea - either the cheaper stuff that's mostly some green tea with a few petals OR the more expensive stuff that is just the flowers.

We have a some pu'er tea at home and another dark one but I don't overly enjoy them.

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abcdefg

#13 -- Shelley -- Sure, glad to try. It's late tonight, so I'll sleep on it. Here's what comes to mind just now:

 

1. Green tea 绿茶

2. Oolong tea -- maybe Tieguanyin 铁观音

3. Red tea (aka "black tea") 红茶

4. Puer -- 普洱茶 -- raw 生 and ripe 熟

 

---------------------------------------------------------

 

Tomorrow I can suggest easy-to-find examples of these.

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abcdefg

#14 -- ChTTay -- Have a look at the Anji Baicha 安吉白茶 and the Longjing 龙井 described in my other post just now.

 

The Anji Baicha is particularly low in caffeine, but high in theonine. Produces alertness without the jitters. Doesn't interfere with sleep unless you have a whole lot.

 

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48541-how-to-make-green-tea-that-isnt-bitter/

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roddy

I think it's a great idea, and strongly encourage it. I'll make two suggestions

1) spread them out. Better to do one a week, or one a month, than post a lot in quick succession then run out of things to say. 

2) I think one of the things people love about your cooking topics is when there's also a slice of life in China in there. Talking about the market where you got the food, how you've known the vendor for years, the new words you learned along the way. The more of that, the better. 

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abcdefg

Thanks for your encouragement, Roddy. I will heed your advice.

 

For now we can stick with green tea and get a handle on how to make it well.

 

Shelley, in response to your earlier question (#13) about buying several teas, I would suggest not going overboard. First buy some thin-leaf or needle green. I would recommend a Huangshan Maofeng 黄山毛峰 as a readily-available example that has good taste and flavor and is easy to like. It's also not terribly expensive.

 

Would make a couple additional suggestions:

 

1. Don't buy a lot first time round. If shopping on line, buy 50 Grams. That's enough to see how well you like it and get a feel for how much of it you will use. Also, green tea doesn't keep well much past a year. It's OK to run out of it. When that happens, you look forward to next year's crop.

 

2. Don't need to always buy the top grade. This is heresy in the tea shops, but often the top grade is tricky to brew; requires lots of skill and care to make it come out as it should. Some of the very best teas must be "coaxed" and "nurtured" in order to shine and do their stuff. Better to have a solid "household use" tea that is forgiving of minor preparation errors.

 

I don't buy tea on-line since there are probably a dozen teashops within a 10-minute walk of where I live today. So I cannot recommend a specific on-line merchant. But I did look around a little bit just now, and it seems that 50 Grams of decent Huangshan Maofeng can be had for about $15 US. 

 

Another thing about Huangshan Maofeng is that it's not obscure. You can find it discussed in books and blogs and plenty of background information is available. You can find brewing tips and use hints from various experts.

 

Incidentally, for anyone who is sensitive to the effects of caffeine, a cup of Huangshan Maofeng has about a tenth as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and is not likely to interfere with sleep. Furthermore, in China you're more likely to drink it in the morning. (Hong cha 红茶 in the afternoon.)

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Shelley

My "local" Chinese supermarket is the only place outside of London that I can buy anything remotely close to authentic Chinese foods, products and teas so this will have to be my source. It is the "famous" Yau Brothers who apparently supply some of London's Chinatown.

 

http://www.yaubros.co.uk/

 

I have been going there for years. I am not keen on buying online as I am not confident enough yet that i would make the right choices.

 

I remembered that a friend of mine who visited china a few years ago brought me some tea back. They have sat at the back of the cupboard for the last few years because I wasn't sure what to do with them.

 

I have scanned the packets, there are 2 types and I have scanned both sides of each one of them. The tea in the the plainer box is black in colour and is small leaves and dry, and is just in an unsealed plastic bag inside the cardboard box. Not sure how this will have aged/or lasted.

 

The other tea in the more decorated box is vacuum packed in foil and is almost like a small hard brick, I don't want to break the seal until i am going to use it so i have no idea what it looks like.

 

 

post-31145-0-28105800-1431264585_thumb.jpg

post-31145-0-10496700-1431264600_thumb.jpg

post-31145-0-16038400-1431264629_thumb.jpg

post-31145-0-21817000-1431264649_thumb.jpg

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realmayo

That is Wuyi rock ea, a type of Wulong (or sometimes written Oolong) tea, from the Wuyi mountains in Fujian.

 

Edit: as ZhangKaiRong points out, I only looked at photos of the second one.

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